Monday, February 19, 2007

Family redefined

No, this isn't a piece about diversity of family structures at the turn of the century or anything like that. Rather, we're returning to the theme of Jesus's authority. We're told that he and his disciples entered a house and a huge crowd gathered as he taught.
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers ... sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mark 3.31-35
I cannot imagine what that must have sounded like to them, especially to his mother, but Jesus is claiming a lot of authority for himself.

Looking at the arc of Mark's gospel from chapter 1 (where we see authority over evil spirits and over diseases) through chapter 2 (authority to forgive sins, authority over religious rituals like fasting and the Sabbath) and now in chapter 3 where he defines family in light of the Kingdom of God, rather than in terms of biology.

So this is the thing: Jesus redefines not just family, but everything in light of the Kingdom of God. Why do I do what I do, and why do I do it in that particular way?

And specifically about family: how do I show myself a brother to those who do God's will? How am, or should I be a brother to them? To what extent, and in what ways, can I (or should I) think of them as my brother or sister or mother?

As I wrote that, something occurred to me: the next question I was about to write was going to be about money: borrowing or lending, giving or receiving... that's something connected in my mind to family relationships. Of course we give to the church, to relief and development efforts, for evangelism and discipleship and leadership development. But that's pretty much all through agencies and organizations. To whom have we written personal checks, I mean checks payable just to that person, to bail him or her out or help buy a house or whatever?

It occurs to me that defining family in terms of "who you'd loan money to" might be a little strange, and that maybe this is something I should think about -- in terms of expanding my vision of family to include "whoever does the will of God" I mean. And for me, the point of growth might be: from whom would I be willing to accept a personal loan or grant? Who would I be willing to ask, with all the complications that it would entail?

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